2020 Ford F-Series Super Duty first drive review: Over 1,000 lb-ft of torque
The Ford Super Duty line of F-Series pickups is, in many ways, similar to the familiar light-duty F-150. However, in other critical ways, they're completely different. Besides being larger, heavier and more expensive, these "over 8,500-pound" class heavy-duty trucks for personal and commercial use take strength and power to the next level: a realm where towing ability is measured not by the thousand, but in tens-of-thousands of pounds, and where four-digit diesel torque is possible.
2020 brings big changes to the Ford Super Duty, including a new engine, a host of feature and technology upgrades, a new Tremor off-road package and a dizzying number of best-in-class claims.
The 2020 Super Duty comes out swinging with a trio of potent V8 engine options good for towing trailers, hauling heavy loads and -- if you need it -- hauling ass.
New for 2020 is an available 7.3-liter gasoline V8 that cranks out 430 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque. Ford says that this is the most powerful petrol burner they've ever shoved into the Super Duty's engine bay and also the torquiest gas V8 in this class. All of that torque makes its way to the road via a 10-speed TorqShift automatic gearbox. Available in 4x2 and 4x4 configurations, this is beefier hardware than the 10-speed in Ford's smaller trucks and SUVs, but the gear changes and shift points are just as smooth and intelligent.
The previous Super Duty's 6.2-liter gasoline V8 also carries over into 2020 as standard equipment, bringing a still very respectable 385 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque to the party for owners who chose not to upgrade. The standard setup is no slouch with a maximum payload capacity of 7,850 pounds. Lower trim F-250 models match this base V8 with a six-speed transmission, but higher specs and F-350 models get the TorqShift 10-speed.
The burliest of the available 2020 Super Duty engines is the 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 turbo diesel, which gets a healthy upgrade to 475 horsepower and 1,050 pound-feet of torque. That's no typo -- over one thousand pound-feet! Also mated to the 10-speed TorqShift transmission, this is the hauler of the trio, able tow up to 37,000 pounds with a gooseneck, 32,500 pounds with a fifth-wheel and 24,200 pounds with a conventional hitch -- best-in-class for all three methods, according to Ford.
It's no surprise that the F-Series Super Duty pickups are formidable towers and haulers, but I didn't think of them as rock crawlers. That was before I met the new Super Duty Tremor package. Ford's answer to the Ram Power Wagon, the $3,975 Tremor option for Crew Cab 4x4 models boosts the big pickup's off-road capability starting where the rubber meets the road (or lack thereof) with a massive set of 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac all-terrain tires mounted on 18-inch matte finish wheels. Ford says that these are the largest tires ever fitted to a stock heavy-duty pickup.
To make room for all of that rubber and further boost clearance, Tremor models also feature a 2-inch lift courtesy of custom 1.7-inch diameter twin-tube dampers and new progressive-rate springs. Other changes include a retuned rear stabilizer bar that allows for more articulation over radically uneven terrain, a shortened front air dam that improves the approach angle, and off-road running boards tucked high against the body for maximum breakover clearance.
I was able to experience the Super Duty Tremor's 10.8 inches of ground clearance and 31.65-degree approach and 24.51-degree departure angles on an off-road course starting with a fairly aggressive low-speed rock crawl. With the aid of the Tremor package's dedicated "Rock Crawl" drive mode -- which optimizes low speed torque with a 53:1 crawl ratio for gasoline models or 44:1 for diesel -- and some careful left-foot braking, I was able to inch and articulate the massive truck over some fairly gnarly boulders without ever bashing or scraping the underbody skid plates. Not everyone who tackled the course was so lucky, it was a tricky start.
Making my way down the trail, the Tremor scrambled up steep and loose dirt grades with the aid of its Dana limited-slip front differential, brake-based traction control, locking rear differential and, of course, gobs of torque. I carefully picked my way down steep descents, making use of the Trail Control software -- a sort of low-speed, off-road cruise control borrowed from the F-150 Raptor -- to automatically maintain my pace. The optional 360-degree camera system came in handy when picking my way through tight squeezes and choosing my lines over obstacles and the extra clearance and articulation made careful, but easy work of deep ditches and moguls. The Ford even (ahem) forded 33-inches of water -- another best-in-class -- thanks in part to the Tremor's extended axle vent tubes.
Tremor models can be further outfitted with the Tremor Winch by Warn, which boasts 12,000-pounds of tugging power and wireless remote operation. Integrated neatly into the Super Duty's front bumper, this factory or dealer-installed option adds $3,000 to the bottom line and will be available starting mid-2020.
The Super Duty Tremor proved surprisingly capable off-road without really sacrificing much on-road performance. The taller ride and articulation-friendly suspension components make the ride a bit softer around bends -- there's probably also an aerodynamic hit to fuel economy -- but the pickup still feels pretty good at speed and retains the generous towing and hauling capabilities of non-Tremor models.
Next up, I tested the towing ability with a variety F-Series Super Duty models and trailers. I started with a 7.3-liter gasoline 4x4 hooked up to a four-horse trailer (about 5,100 pounds empty) with gooseneck hitch. Well within the 19,100-pound trailer capability of this spec, the Super Duty confidently pulled the load up a fairly long and steep uphill climb.
Later, behind the wheel of a Power Stroke F-350, I pulled an 11,000-pound luxury travel trailer up the same grade -- still only a little more than a third of that example's fifth-wheel capability. Heading back downhill, I learned that the "Towing" drive mode makes smart use of diesel engine braking to help control speed on declines. OK, the towing portion of the day was a bit of a cakewalk, but with without the commercial drivers license necessary to pull anything near the Super Duty's maximum capability, how could it not be?
As a bit of a towing novice, especially when it comes to backing up, I was happy to test out a few available driver aid features aimed at making maneuvering a trailer less stressful. Ford's Trailer Reverse Guidance uses the Super Duty's side and rear-view cameras to help drivers accurately steer a trailer while backing up. The Pro Trailer Backup Assist tech goes a step further; after calibrating for your trailer's dimensions, it can handle the reverse steering automatically while the driver chooses their direction with a small knob on the dashboard.
Having hauled and crawled the day away, it was time to head home for the evening. Along the way, I enjoyed the Super Duty's spacious cabin and smart dashboard tech.
From the driver's seat, the F-250 and F-350 experience is nearly identical to that of the familiar Ford F-150, with the same available Ford Sync 3 tech peering back at you from an 8-inch touchscreen and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity supplementing the also-excellent optional OEM navigation software. For 2020, FordPass 4G Connect Wi-Fi Modem hardware is now standard equipment on all SuperDuty models, providing subscription-based hotspot internet access to up to 10 devices. The cabin is also littered with USB and USB-C ports, 12-volt power points, a 110-volt AC outlet and an available wireless phone charging pad to keep those devices juiced up.
Upper trim levels -- XLT and above -- gain new standard driver aid features such as automatic emergency braking and pre-collision alert, as well as lane keeping alert and blind spot monitoring with trailer coverage. Keep working up the trim level totem pole to unlock more optional driver aid features like adaptive cruise control, adaptive steering and automatic high beams.
As much as I love smart tech, I especially enjoyed the bits of thoughtful detail and smart storage design. For example, a sliding center console panel allows passengers to adjust between how the space is split between cup holders and storage cubbies. I especially enjoyed playing with the collapsible storage bins beneath the rear seats -- which fold up sort of like a Honda Fit. Ford has clearly put as much thought into the F-Series' interior cargo capability as it has outside.
Not that it was particularly lacking before, but Ford's Super Duty F-Series pickups stepped it up for the 2020 model year, hitting the ground running with a list of best-in-class claims as long as my arm, backing up those claims with confidence inspiring performance.
The 2020 Ford F-Series Super Duty starts at $33,705 for the most basic single-cab F-250 XL 4X2 I could configure; call it $35,300 out-the-door when you include the $1,595 destination charge. There's a pretty broad price range heading up from there, depending on trim level, chassis, engine options and packages.
At this event alone, there were nearly 50 different configurations available, ranging from reasonably equipped to the loaded, leather and suede-trimmed F-250 Limited 4X4 Power Stroke Crew Cab that stickers at $88,240 as-tested. Heck, it doesn't take much futzing around with Ford's online configurator to clear the $95,000 mark. For most, however, I reckon the value sweet spot is the mid-tier F-250 Lariat Crew Cab, which starts at $50,525 including destination or around $60,000 nicely equipped. That's still a whole lot of money, but also a whole lot of truck for the money for those who need this level of capability.
Editors' note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow's staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.